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Cwrs Cymraeg yr Ymerodraeth, 2007

Cwrs yr Ymerodraeth - the Empire Course - brought Cymdeithas Madog's annual week-long Welsh course to New York, the Empire State, for a week of language learning and hwyl. From July 22 - 29, 2007, 55 students and seven tutors converged on the campus of Sage College of Albany, New York, for an activity-packed Cwrs Cymraeg (Welsh course) that garnered rave reviews from students, tutors, organizers, and campus staff alike.

A welcome reception in the Kahl Campus Center kicked off the week, complete with a rousing sing-along, as well as a homemade cake from local organizer Pam Slotsky featuring green frosting hills and fluffy white marshmallow sheep. The reception, sponsored by the St. David's Welsh Society of the Capital District, gave students the opportunity to meet the tutors, local organizers, Board members, and one another.

Course regulars were pleased to welcome veteran Cwrs tutor Steve Morris from the University of Swansea as Lead Tutor. Together with the Board, he assembled an excellent teaching staff: Diana Manzanilla, a former Cwrs student, made her debut as a teacher, teaching Level 1 students; Annette Evans, who recently moved to Toronto from Wales, taught Level 2; Kevin Rottet taught Level 3; Chris Reynolds, from Abertawe, also made his debut as a Cwrs teacher for Level 4 students; Elwyn Hughes of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, returned after a sixteen year hiatus to teach Level 5 and serve as our Eisteddfod's Arch-druid; Hefina Phillips, originally from Cwm Giedd and now from Oakville, Ontario, taught the Level 5+ class; and Steve Morris taught Level 6. Meredith Rehbach led our Cwrs singing and Choir with her usual hwyl.

Of course, every member of the teaching staff provided encouragement throughout the week, not only in daily language classes but also during two sessions of afternoon workshops. Cwrs students sampled a variety of Welsh-related topics and activities during the workshops, such as Pronunciation Using Folk Songs, Welsh Conversation, Welsh Websites, and the Cwrs Choir. In the evenings, students and tutors had the opportunity to socialize and practice Welsh in a more informal environment (and we're not just talking about the pub!). First-time Cwrs tutor Chris Reynolds led Monday evening's twmpath dawns, or folk dance evening, starting the week on a cheerful note. Tuesday evening's trivia quiz, led by quiz master Hefina Phillips, was just as spirited, and was followed by a sing-along at a local pub, The Fountain.

On Wednesday afternoon, we offered our sole plenary session followed by our annual day trip. Garrett Riggs of the Slate Valley Museum in Granville, New York, presented a lecture with artifacts on "North Wales in New York and Vermont: the Migration and Cultural Impact of Quarrymen in the Slate Valley." For this year's Day Trip we boarded the Albany Aqua Duck and toured not only the streets of Albany but its river: our splash into the Hudson afforded us a beautiful panorama of the city's shores and buildings, its bridges, and the USS Slater, a World War II destroyer escort.

A Welsh film was shown on Thursday evening in the Opalka Gallery, Llythyrau Ellis Williams (The Letters of Ellis Williams), followed by our annual Eisteddfod on Friday evening, which was livened up by a special performance of the Dawns y Blodau courtesy of some of the course tutors. This year's prizes went to Jim Strickland (Levels 1 and 2), Bill Roberts (Levels 3, 4, and 5), and the winner of this year's Chair, Mary Williams-Norton for her essay on Ymerodraeth - Empire.

Saturday evening's noson lawen, or merry evening, ended the Cwrs week just as cheerfully as it began, with a program of performances by classes and individual students. Lead Tutor Steve Morris was the emcee, with assistance from the rest of the teaching staff in the form of jokes. A few highlights of the evening included magic tricks from Board President-Elect Bill Roberts and a hilarious North Welsh/South Welsh musical duet from local New York attendees Jim Strickland and Katharine Houk. The final official course activity was the Sunday morning nondenominational service.

This incredibly well-executed and well-enjoyed week owes an enormous debt to the ever-vigilant and responsive Local Committee, led by Leslie Neumann and ably abetted by Pam Slotsky and Robert Jones of St. David's Welsh Society of the Capital District; and their partnership with host institution Sage College of Albany and its Director of Conferences and Special Events, the gracious and patient Will Limer. The Board is profoundly grateful for their hospitality and attentiveness.

The 31st annual Cwrs was an undisputed success - and, as always, it was a bit difficult to say goodbye to new and old friends. One of the most emotional moments took place during the Saturday evening banquet, when everyone honored longtime Board member and former President Jenny Hubbard Young as she stepped down from the Board after nine years of service. Fortunately, course attendees will have the opportunity to reunite next summer. Cwrs Cymraeg 2008 will return to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, July 13 - 20, 2008.